Batman Begins in Gotham City

David Goyer looks like a nerd. He is going bald. He has glasses. He is slightly built and, standing about 1.7m, he's a shrimp and the perfect victim for a bully.

But he knows more about Batman than anyone else on the planet. And that includes the other nerds at Marvel Comics.

"I'm definitely a nerd," says Goyer "But, you know what? Nerds always win. Look at Bill Gates. Look at George Lucas. Look at Steven Spielberg. Look at Stanley Kubrick."

There is one nerd attribute that's missing from Goyer. It's his voice. It's not squeaky.

The noise that comes from his lips is rough and husky. Think Jack Nicholson after a night on the booze.

Goyer's voice, however, is not natural, as he's been struck down with laryngitis and, just as a courageous nerd would, he decided against cancelling this interview.

The 39-year-old is promoting his latest project, the US$120 million ($173.33 million) Batman Begins and is keen to talk it up even if it is in that rough whisper.

When Hollywood wants a screenwriter to adapt a comic book, Goyer is one of the first people studio executives call.

Hooked on comics since he came across an Incredible Hulk comic as a 6-year-old living in Michigan, Goyer scored his dream job when he wrote comics for DC Comics for four years.

He also studied film at the University of Southern California, and, while a 22-year-old student, sold his first script, which became the Jean-Claude Van Damme thriller Death Warrant.

Since graduating he has written some of the most successful big-screen adaptations of comic books - the Blade trilogy, Crow: City of Angels and Dark City.

Goyer also penned the original script for Ghost Rider, being shot with Nicolas Cage in Melbourne, and he is also working on a film version of The Flash. Batman, however, is his speciality.

"When I was 12, I remember telling my mother 'When I grow up I want to do a Batman movie'," he recalled.

There was some trepidation.

Flamboyant director Joel Schumacher almost killed off the genre in the 1990s with his maligned Batman Forever and Batman & Robin films.

Goyer and Christopher Nolan, Batman Begins' British director and fellow "nerd", decided to take a major U-turn, resulting in a dark, dramatic Batman story with little colour and no camp.

Goyer came up with the story and penned the script with Nolan, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his screenplay for 2001's Memento, starring Guy Pearce.

"It stays true to the comics, but it was really important for us to draw a line between the last Batman films and this one," Goyer said. 

"Our mantra was to make it real, not just make it believable."

The mantra took Goyer and Nolan to territory not even Bob Kane, who created Batman in 1939 for DC Comics, had taken the caped crusader.

Batman Begins looks at the early life of Bruce Wayne. It explores how the rich kid from Gotham City coped with his parents' murders and then, after travelling the world, how he returned to avenge the deaths and lock up Gotham's criminals.

The comic's best-known villains, the Joker and the Riddler, don't make an appearance. Instead, it's two not so well-known baddies from the original Batman comics - the Scarecrow and Ra's al Ghul, the head of the vigilante group, the League of Shadows.

"We felt, since we were turning over a new leaf, we shouldn't use any of the villains that had been used in the Batman films before," Goyer said. "Fortunately, two of the best villains, Ra's al Ghul and the Scarecrow, hadn't been used yet."

Nolan, Goyer and Warner Bros also went in search of a fresh face to play Batman.

George Clooney, Val Kilmer and Michael Keaton wore the mask and cape in previous Batman films, but Christian Bale, a 31-year-old actor from Wales, was given the job in Batman Begins.

Bale was best known for his roles in The Machinist and American Psycho, but he was not a member of Hollywood's A-list leading men.

That was fine with Goyer, Nolan and the studio.

"He was the first person Chris and I always talked about," Goyer said.

Nolan then went about surrounding Bale with an impressive cast in a similar manner to what director Richard Donner did in 1978 to a then little-known Christopher Reeve in Superman.

Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman and Terence Stamp supported Reeve.

Surrounding Bale in Batman Returns are Michael Caine (playing Alfred Pennyworth), Liam Neeson (Henri Ducard), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox), Gary Oldman (Lt James Gordon), Ken Watanabe (Ra's al Ghul) and Katie Holmes (Rachel Dawes).

Another star of the film is the new Batmobile - a creation unlike any previous Batman vehicle.

It's a rev head's dream. A hybrid of a Lamborghini sports car and a military Humvee, the Batmobile is also fully functional. What it does on the film it basically can do in real life and that includes jumping 20m.

"There has never been a great chase with the Batmobile, and we wanted to do one of the great chases in movie history," Goyer said.

As the interview wraps up, Goyer gets up out of his chair and is about to head out of the hotel room when he stops and returns. "Can you rewind and play a bit of your tape?" The voice he wants to hear is his own. That Jack Nicholson raspy whisper.

Goyer, impressed, lets out a big laugh and heads out of the room. The nerd, for once, sounded cool.


* Batman Begins opens in New Zealand on June 16.

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